Following her PASSIONS

MARQUETTE – Ishpeming native Heidi Hill is realizing a dream.

She’s living and working in Washington, D.C., learning more about her passion – the theater – as an intern this autumn at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The daughter of Carol and Bert Hill, Heidi grew up in Ishpeming along with her younger siblings, Marla and Nolan. She attended National Mine Elementary School, learning music from Gretchen Betts until second grade, when she transferred to Aspen Ridge School.

“I’ve always had a musical flair, singing any chance I could,” Hill said in an email. “My parents will tell you that if I wasn’t wailing away in the shower, I was belting unapologetically in my room to whatever song happened to be my favorite that week. I joined chorus the first chance I could when I was in fourth grade and I didn’t stop performing until I had graduated from college.”

It was as a young teen her interest was piqued.

“My passion for theater really started to grow after I began my freshman year at Westwood High School,” Hill said. “Until that point, despite my vocal performance background, I was a shy kid. I went through school dealing with the typical bullying scenarios that many young teenagers unfortunately face growing up. It wasn’t until high school that I found my confidence through theater, music and forensic speaking competitions.”

“HONK! The Musical” was her first audition and she wound up with the role of the Security Duck, with one line: “Back! Back! Back! Everyone back, please!”

“That musical marked the beginning of my theater career and after that, I didn’t look back,” Hill said. “By the time I was a senior in high school, I was involved with the Westwood’s forensics team, the Westwood Shakespeare Company, WHS’s select show choir – Voices in Motion – and any play or musical I had time to audition for.”

After graduating from WHS in 2007, Hill enrolled at Northern Michigan University to study theater and communications.

“I was involved with every musical during my college career and began to focus on the administrative aspects of theater, interning with Nikke Nason at the Marquette Arts and Culture Center as a communications Intern,” Hill said. “I graduated from NMU with a bachelor of science degree in communication studies and a minor in theater. Shortly after graduating in 2011, I took a job interning at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, Tenn., as their first Administrative and Front of House intern.”

While at Playhouse, Hill lent a hand in most of the administrative departments, assisting with marketing, public relations, special events and development. When the internship in Memphis was done, she looked for an opportunity to learn more about the arts management field. Colleagues recommended the Kennedy Center.

“I applied (for an internship) online and was contacted for an interview about a week after submitting my application. Shortly after, I was offered a three and a half month internship to work with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center. I gladly accepted and have been here since mid-August.”

The experience has been “incredible,” Hill said, citing the guidance and feedback she’s receiving from the DeVos team members as an integral part of the internship.

“It is an opportunity that not many young people get outside of this internship,” Hill said. “Beyond the professional benefits of this internship, I have particularly enjoyed the access we have to some of the special events. My favorite moment was when I was helping crowd manage the red carpet at the Mark Twain Prize for Humor at the Kennedy Center and I turned around to see Ms. Carol Burnett, who was the honoree of the evening, standing just feet away from me, waving at the crowd. I will never forget that moment. It was very surreal.”

But there’s more.

“Besides all the glitz and glamour, I have really made some meaningful friendships with the other interns who have gone through this program with me. It is so helpful to interact with people who are at the same stage of life as I am, facing the same challenges, and being able to exchange advice.”

Looking back at her path to Washington, Hill said she is indebted to a number of people.

“I would just like to take the opportunity to give my tremendous thanks to all of the teachers and advisers I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the years. I can confidently say I would not be the person I am today without the guidance and support I’ve received from B.G. Bradley, Tony Beacco, Jim Panowski, Shelley Russell, Ansley Valentine, Vanessa Taavola, Gretchen Betts and Pauline Lakanen,” she said.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.